Climate Change

Heatwave grips US too, ‘excessive heat warning’ for some areas

Biden announces measures to combat climate change  

 
By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Thursday 21 July 2022
Widespread high temperatures, ranging from 32-38°C, will cover most of the US. Photo: iStock

A dangerous heatwave has gripped the United States, with some parts recording temperatures beyond 38°C.

Parts of southwestern, south-central and eastern United States have been particularly impacted, according to National Weather Service. The federal agency forecasts weather in the US. 

Widespread high temperatures, ranging from 32-38°C, will cover most of the country from July 21-22, said experts. 

“Above-normal temperatures will continue to prevail across much of the US through the end of the week, with a significant portion of the population remaining under heat-related advisories and warnings,” the National Weather Service stated.

statement from the White House, US President Joe Biden's office, stated that the climate crisis was making heat waves more intense and frequent.

“The climate crisis is...taking a toll on health across the country — sending tens of thousands of Americans to the emergency room, increasing risks of heart and respiratory problems, and especially endangering our workers, children, seniors, historically underserved and overburdened communities, and people with underlying health conditions,” the statement read.

The statement comes in the wake of heatwaves sweeping western Europe. 


Read more: UK heatwave: Temperature crosses 40°C


Biden July 20 took stock of the situation and announced a slew of measures to combat climate change.

He announced $2.3 billion in funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) programme. 

The programme provides grants to identify mitigation actions and implement projects designed to support states, local communities, tribes and territories as they undertake hazard mitigation projects.

Other measures include lowering cooling costs for communities suffering from extreme heat and expanding offshore wind turbines to provide clean energy and jobs.

Heat warning issued

“In the future, this kind of heatwaves will be normal. We will see stronger extremes,” Petteri Taalas, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general, said in a statement.

WMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology. 

The world had not taken enough steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Taalas added. 

Southeastern California and western Arizona, southern Nevada and southern Utah have been given an “excessive heat warning” for July 21 and 22.

An excessive heat warning is declared when the heat index is 40.5°C or greater and lasts for two hours or more.

The heat index combines air temperature and relative humidity to determine the equivalent temperature experienced by humans. 

These regions, home to 168,101 people, are expected to see temperatures shooting beyond 38°C. 

Low-elevation areas could see the mercury going as high as 43°C. 

June 2022, too, was a warm month for the US. The average temperature across the country was 21.5°C — 2.2 degrees above average). 

This makes it the 15th-warmest June in 128 years, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The American agency forecasts weather and monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditions. 

Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi each recorded their top 10 warmest Junes. Texas saw its fifth warmest while Alaska witnessed its ninth-warmest June.

Rainfall was below average in June. At 59.18 mm, precipitation was 15.24 mm below average, according to NOAA.

“As of June 15, nearly one-third of the American population was under some form of the heat advisory,” WMO said.

Canada, which saw devastating heatwaves in 2021, does not appear as affected yet. However, on July 18, the country issued a heat warning for the city of Ottawa

Temperatures are predicted to touch 30°C on July 22 and July 23. The highest temperature registered in the city was 36.7°C in 1955, according to the data on the Government of Canada website. 

Rampant wildfires 

Wildfires have been ravaging the United States, covering 3.1 million acres in July, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The centre provides emergency responses in the US.

About 86 large fires have been reported so far — Alaska (58), Texas (8), California (3), New Mexico (2), Nevada (2), Utah (2), Arizona (2), Oklahoma (2), Idaho (2), Montana (2), Wyoming (1), Nebraska (1) and Washington (1). 

Only three fires have been contained so far, data showed.

Last month, large wildfires broke out in portions of the south and southwest parts of the US. By July 1, fires engulfed 1.85 million acres, the second-highest June total on record, NOAA stated.

Overall, it added that in 2022, the United States reported 37,395 fires, covering 5,499,140 acres of land.

In 2021, 35,319 fires broke out, affecting 2,585,492 acres of land. The 10-year average (2012-2021) saw 31,094 fire events, impacting 3,010,623 acres.

Last year alone, the United States faced 20 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events. The losses exceeded $1 billion each — a cumulative price tag of more than $145 billion, according to a statement from the White House.

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